Resuscitative Resurrection: who’s first?

Nicolai Federov — the Russian proto-transhumanist philosopher — believed that the “Common Task” of humanity was to technologically conquer death.  Immortality for the living… right? No, think bigger.  Federov believed  that the evil horror of death that we have all suffered from would not be fully conquered until everyone who had ever died was brought back to life.

In recent years, Ray Kurzweil has duplicated this demand for “resuscitative resurrection.” Kurzweil believes his deceased dad’s DNA combined with copious momentos and living memories of him (Frederic Kurzweil, a musician), could recreate “Father 2.0” in a post-Singularity world.

Let’s set aside the scientific problems of this “Lazarus Project” for a while, to focus on an ethical issue.  If dead humans could be brought back to life, how would we, as a society, prioritize their return?  Who gets out of Limbo first?  If funds are limited (they always are) who should we initially wrench free from the cold clammy grasp of death?   Here’s four suggestions:

The Honorable Deceased.  Kurzweil has said, “if you can bring back life that was valuable in the past, it should be valuable in the future.” Many heroic and intelligent humans had their breath rudely abbreviated; should we haul them back immediately, to utilize their timeless skills?  Two examples in this category are Alan Turing, the English computer scientist/mathematician who was persecuted into suicide when he was 41 because of his homosexuality; and Joan of Arc, burned alive at the stake at the age of 19 or 20.  Okay, the French maid might have been crazy, but her leadership, managerial, and foresight skills were exemplary.

Dead Babies.  Millions of infants have perished in childhood or they’ve succumbed to malnutrition or disease before their fifth birthday.  Obviously, they got short-changed.  Should we bring back the innocent infants first?  Grant them the years they never had?  One biologist I know disagrees – she believes their failure to survive indicates weaker genes.  But this argument is archaic – the nasty germs and mishaps that killed the tots in yesteryear will be incapacitated in the future.

Parents. Sure, this seems sentimental but both Federov and Kurzweil would probably vote for this category, due to their filial love.  Breeders are definitely not superior to the childless, but there is something symmetrically pleasing about returning to life all those who have bestowed life upon others.  Tit for tat, hmm?  Obviously, the descendants would be required to pony up a substantial percentage of the resuscitation fee.

Victims of Genocide.  The horrors of history could be partially atoned for if groups who were slaughtered were returned to life via the bank accounts of their executioners.  Germany recently bailed out a bankrupt Greece; surely it can find funds in the future to resuscitate six million Jews?  The Turks are still in denial, but their economy is healthy and their PR would look better if they resurrected at least one million Armenians.  Rwanda’s Hutus can shell out some dough to bring back macheted Tutsis, and Serbia can pay for the ethnically-cleansed Bosnians.  The USA can of course clean up its own bloody past with resuscitation of Native Americans, and Africans who succumbed on slave ships or plantations.

Ponder the choices, readers.  Four options, at least.  I conducted a brief survey in my household and there was no consensus — my own children decided “Parents” were the least deserving.

If you want to post your vote or add a new category, just leave it in “Comments” below or email me at

40 Responses

  1. Wowo says:

    I put up a forum dedicated to technological resurrection at

  2. Eddie G says:

    You’re not the same person across the span of your life: In terms of physique, intelligence, personality, and health, you are constantly changing and in fact represent several different people across your lifespan. This fact comes into play when contemplating quantum resurrection. Should Ray Kurzweil bring back his father exactly as he was when he was old and suffering at the end of his life? Or should he bring back his healthy, 30-year old father? Or should both be brought back? Or more than two?

  3. Peter Christiansen says:

    Thanks for a great article about Fydorov, and also a very good disscussion. H+ is becoming one of my favorite reads.

  4. DeadPeopleFromPopCulture says:

    I propose another category, famous dead people from pop culture:

    Heath Ledger — he could be in some really cool movies

    Dorothy Stratten — She was real hot and it’s too bad her boyfriend went psycho and killed her.

    My friend Rob — he died too young

    Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix — we could see their farewell tours

    Bruce Lee — he’d be making really cool movies with Jackie Chan, 2 old kung fu guys having crazy adventures.

    Michael Jackson and Anna Nicole Smith? — better let them rest in peace

  5. Resurrecting the dead by “copying them to the future” does not require time travel but time scanning: extracting very high resolution information from the past. Time scanning does not create logical paradoxes (think of it as archeology on steroids). Actually I suspect even time travel does not really create logical paradoxes when viewed from an appropriate perspective.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Sounds alot like Tipler’s Omega Point Theory.

  7. Anonymous says:

    If you were to attain immortality and live “forever”, tell me, what will happen to you when the sun goes super-nova and the earth is destroyed? Where will you enjoy your immortality? You know “forever” is a rather long time and things happen.

    • Humm, considering it’s possible we might have “stringtech” within a century or so, we’d probably have refueled the sun by then, providing of course we were feeling sentimental and hadn’t simply moved the Earth and the Solar System with us to a replacement star.

      And if not, I’m sure we’ll be quite happily living among the stars in a vast web of colonized planets, starships, dyson sphere’s and who knows what else.

      And, if there is an actual “heat death” of the universe, I plan to be comfortably far off in another universe when it happens. Of course, with the latest “big bangless” universal theory, there might not actually BE a heat death, just an endless future in an infinite steady state, exploring a universe that truly is infinite.

      Don’t get me wrong, I may not live “forever”, but I damn well am not going to die out of choice. And it will be over every single technological effort I can make to prevent it. With backup redundancy of ridiculous proportions. And three more identical backups for those backups. I can’t control every eventuality, but anything I can anticipate I can prevent.

  8. smchris says:

    when she’s told that DNA is destiny.

  9. Jean says:

    To me, the idea of immortality is more terrifying than death. Would you continue to age until your body decomposed and you lay there as conscious dust ? Or if your body maintains whatever age you choose and you live on and on and on and on, and everyone you know and loves dies, and you repeat this loss again and again, wouldn’t one go insane ?
    Also I wonder – Does life get it’s meaning from death ?
    And as to resurrecting the dead, in movies and folklore it always turns out to be a really bad idea.

    • The answers in order are No, No, and No.

      Life extension is about repairing the damage of aging so you live a long long time. Hopefully, as long as you wish, in a body maintained at the young adult stage. So, no “aging until your body decomposes”

      It is a treatment, not a “magic item” or a “curse” or “something unique” but a medical procedure, so why would you even think it’s “available to you alone” so that “everyone you know and love dies”? It’s not a “highlander” gene, or a “vampire”, or supernatural, it’s expected to be like any medical tech, expensive for a few years until it’s cheap enough and common enough to be universally available to the human race.

      And what meaning does death give life? Would a new Bach Concerto lack “Bachness” if he was still alive? Does it only have it’s value from his death? Peoples choice’s give their lives meanings. If you chose to never educate yourself, never try, never create a meaning, your death will be as meaningless as your life was. Only the living can create meaning in their own lives. No-one else can do it for you, and death certainly won’t.

      And Movies and Folklore are stories. Bad things happen, so that they can be overcome. If they didn’t, there wouldn’t be a story.

  10. NCJB says:

    I’ve always thought that one day we would conquer death for the living, it seems extremely possible and not even in the very distant future at that. I suppose if we could conquer time as well(not sure if that’s possible or not) we could go back and save everyone in history from dying by giving them the same traits as we ourselves have. Won’t happen in my lifetime I’m guessing, but it’s one way for atheist to hope for eternity. Why not make a religion out of it? Given enough time everything that’s possible will happen. If we can conquer time, it’s inevitable that we will..or if we kill ourselves some other race will come along and do it.

    I know I know people say “If time travel is possible then where are all the time travelers from the future?” Well it’s obvious that it doesn’t work like that..maybe we have to discover it first..or something..? So lets leave it to the future people and current scientist to work out. I think when the uneducated, like myself, debate on message boards it doesn’t even quite qualify as officially hypothetical, much less theory or fact..its just fun!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Has anyone though that maybe the dead might wish to remain dead? Bringing back dead babies is playing with fire as one of those could grow up and become another Hitler. On the other side it could turn out to be someone good but would it be worth the risk? And also how can you ask the Germany of today as a country to pay money for the resurrection of their crimes in the past? Same with America and their past. I for one know that I wasn’t around when all that happened and believe me, the country is already in debt so I can guarantee that money would be coming out of taxes which means our pockets, the pockets of people who weren’t even born or had any control over those circumstances. I’m usually really open-minded to transhumanist issues and I try and read every new article on here, but I think this is just ignorant.

    • Anonymous says:

      >>Bringing back dead babies is playing with fire as one of those could grow up and become another Hitler.

      Doesn’t this argument apply just as well to babies born naturally?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Has anyone bothered to find out who really wants to be brought back to life in this world as it is now?…assuming it were possible anyways.

    Who wants to be brought back to life in a world controlled by the likes of the Tony Blairs and his pals, where Armageddon is just one business deal more happened to have gone wrong, while filling the plush pockets of the elitists.

    And, even if this exercise resulted in producing some sort of human life form, would these people even have souls?

    • Anonymous says:

      By the time this is possible, I’m almost positive that life in places other than Earth will be possible. I’m not entirely sure that our world’s problems will even exist anymore when this becomes a reality.

  1. February 11, 2012

    […] at once. This vague limit seems just to be there to test the bias of the reader. Some have discussed this in terms of how much it will cost and how who will foot the bill will determine in which order […]

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